This morning on watch we had a very queer experience with a squall. Few clouds were in the sky and the moon was shining brightly when rain came down, hard enough to necessitate closing of the skylights. It only lasted five minutes, but a cloudless squall is new to me. I was told by Fritz today that while at Pitcairn meals will be served three times a day everyday on board. I have no reason to disbelieve Fritz when he says the Skipper told him this, as I know he would not kid about this or like being kidded about it. It this is true and if I don’t get ashore much at Pitcairn, I shall be extremely peeved. We went on Pacific Coast time today.
This morning at twelve midnight when I came on deck for watch, the whole afterdeck looked like a bit of Easter Island. Five or six corpses of sleeping watchers were strewn about and looked like the stone idols, lying down. Still beautiful sailing, moonlight at night and cool in the day.
The turtles went this morning and the chickens this afternoon. Today was another day of continuous work for Fritz and me and I was glad when it was over.
Another period of depression comes over me. During these spasms my work is torture and thoughts of home enter my mind with more force than otherwise. The pictures in my bunts, pinned on the sea-chest and inescapable from view while I lie on my bed, remind me of the comforts left behind. But, these spells go quickly away and I find myself more than glad I am here.
Some rode and the rest of us went on the Yankee to Raraku, the image mountain. We anchored in Tongariki inlet and went ashore after lunch. We hired horses for a pack of cigarettes.
The images are on the east slope of the crater and set in many different directions. They are in all periods of construction, from the finished product to the embryo. Huge slices have been cut into the hill and it is very easy to see where a statue has been hewn and others started. Most of the standing idols are buried almost to the shoulders and others are more above ground. The largest one, about thirty feet long, is left in its cradle, with a passageway around it in the rock to permit the worker to get on every side. The backs of the images are square and the faces show an expression of disdain for mere man who created them. The lips are set in a sneering expression and the heads are hatless, like most statues now to be seen. long noses, turned up at the end, extended ear lobes and empty eye sockets, flat heads and round shoulders – this is an Easter Island image on the surface. Yet it much more.
How many people worked and fought here, why the expression of fear and hate, how the idols were moved? – these questions may never be answered. A dead civilization refused to be reborn.
I did not feel the awful fear which I had expected, but rather, I have come in greater measure than I had ever thought possible to admire the ingenuity and love of labor which the ancient builders of images must have had.
Inside the crater, with its marshy lake where lava once bubbled and sheep now graze, are still more silent reminders of a silent race. Any attempts on my part to adequately and justly describe the wonders here would be as useless as the attempts made so far to translate the keyless inscriptions. I could write page after page about the discovery of the island, sometimes called Davis’ Land in honor of the buccaneer who is sometimes accredited with discovery but whose claim is now greatly disputed; I could go on indefinitely about the lost culture, but it suffices here to say that I have now seen what the next million have never even dreamed of seeing. “The moving finger-.”
We sighted Easter Island shortly before six this morning and in Cook’s Bay at noon. The island from the sea is very interesting, the absence of trees being conspicuous. The hills are smooth-looking and the difference between the grayed and un-grayed fields is easily discernible. There are 50,000 sheep on the island and there is not a trace of disease. This is probably the only place in the world where in such a huge number not one single sheep has to be dipped. A mechanical shearer does the work now on the merinos.
We all went ashore and Fritz came in second in the horse-race. Low was first and Charley third. We haggled with the natives for horses for the race and I finally had to negotiate the trades. After the race we played ball with hard oranges.
We talked with the natives and found them not as bad as we expected. We were jostled and crowded, stared at and grabbed by the natives who wanted to trade with us. They wanted a shirt for a horse for an hour today and it was the same price for a horse all day tomorrow. I got horses for Charley, Low and Fritz for five cigarettes today for an hour with the provision that they give a shirt for the mounts tomorrow. However, after we had an opportunity to talk with them about the war, on which subject they seemed surprisingly well-informed, on horses and other topics, we found that they were not as portrayed in several books I have read. They were written up as thieves and almost cutthroats but they offered us cigarettes and even gave some of the boys free idols.
This evening we had guests and the dinner was at seven. Earle and Charley did the dishes tonight instead of at Tahiti. Gil and Clint had some spearheads and gave them out to the gang. I also got one from the Skipper.
The population of Easter Island is about 450 and increasing. This latter information is surprising because on most of the South Sea Islands the population is decreasing. The island is about 35 miles in circumference. There is supposed to be a curse on all ships which have come here. The Yankee is now the third boat still afloat which has visited the island twice. All the others have been, supposedly, victims of the curse. Robert J Casey, in his book on Easter Island, gives a long list of ships which have come here and are now sunk. The German World War Pacific fleet boats Dresdent Scharnorstt Gneisenau, Nurnbergt Leipzig and Eitel Freiderich made this their rendezvous point. Most of them were sunk off the Falklands and the Dresden blown up at Juan Fernandez. The Falcon Alba, Anqamust Meturat Estabant Jean Fortuna, the last two being war prizes, are others listed among the victims of the “curse.” The Yankee’s crew were affected by poisoned fish between here and Pitcairn the last time. What will happen to us?
The Chilean training ship Baguedano and the freighter Antarctica are probably the only other boats which have come here twice.
The island is also said to have disappeared time and again, many boats coming to its position and finding nothing. This is probably due to poor navigation but in 1928 a British man-of-war, with several navigators working out their sights individually and checking them, using modern instruments and methods, came to Easter’s position and saw only the sea.
It is a strange island with a stranger history. Many theories have been advanced as to the origin of the culture, but the untranslated tablets put the island among the world’s Ninevehs and Angkors.
1722 Discovered by the Dutch Admiral Roggeveen
1770 Visited by Spaniards under Gonzalez
1774 Visited by English under Cook
1786 Visited by French under la Perouse
1862 Peruvian slave-raiders carry off many inhabitants
1864 Arrival of first missionary from Valparaiso
1867 Commercial exploitation begins – arrival of M. Dutrou Bernier from Tahiti
1868 Visit of USA warship Mohican
1888 Chilean government takes possession
1891 Mr Merlet of Valparaiso leases greater part of the island and subsequently forms a company for the “Exploitation of Easter Island”
1913 Routledge Expedition from England
The sheep ranch is the only industry of the island. It was because of the ranch that the whaling ships came here fifty years ago and the only reason for the visits of the supply ship from Chile.
Nothing exciting today as usual. We set the squaresail and raffee for the first time since leaving Galapagos. We also changed tack and to my surprise nothing shifted in my bunk. I finally got caught up on my article and have nothing to write now except in the present tense on what we do now, instead of looking up in the diary of our cruise since Panama.
Dogged watches today and I am again on the 12-4. Fritz and I baked again this afternoon and the dough worked for a change. We are rapidly nearing Easter – or were, until the wind died this afternoon.
Today I broke my time for setting the dishes at sea – ten minutes. My port time is eight minutes, done at Academy Bay. A flying fish came through the main cabin skylight tonight and landed on Fritz. Another Junior Dinner for Arthur tonight.
We passed under the sun and set all clocks back another hour. We are now on Rocky Mountain time, but it seems as though it should be called Heavy Rollers Time instead.
We killed two more turtles this morning and now we have only two left.
Our livestock supply is slowly but surely diminishing.
Our transmitter is finally working again after two days hard labor by Oakes and Doc.
There were squalls again this morning, but we had none on our watch. Arthur had his junior dinner tonight because he doesn’t like baked beans